21 Aug 2019

What is Southern Response costing taxpayers?

From Checkpoint, 5:08 pm on 21 August 2019

Southern Response could be costing taxpayers upwards of $300 million following a court judgement that found it acted in a misleading and deceptive way.

Southern Response was running a two-quote system where it provided an abridged version of a cost assessment to rebuild Karl and Alison Dodds' quake-destroyed home.

It kept secret from the couple the full detailed repair analysis (DRA). 

The couple unwittingly settled on the lesser figure - meaning they were short-changed more than $200,000.

But last week the High Court ordered Southern Response to pay up, and since then Checkpoint has been chasing Southern Response for some answers.

Last week the lawyer for the Dodds, Peter Woods estimated it could be in excess of $300m. 

That weighty bill falls on the taxpayer because Southern Response is a state-owned quake insurer.

Southern Response claims settlement manager and a witness for the company in the Dodds case, Elizabeth Fife was approached for comment, but Checkpoint was told Ms Fife was "not one of the media spokespeople for Southern response so we are declining that request for an interview".

It is yet unknown if Southern Response will appeal the judgement.

Minister in charge of Southern Response, Grant Robertson, said he didn't want to comment on any advice from Treasury about Crown liability, because a legal process was still underway.

"The issue we have here is an enormous amount of taxpayer money has been spent fixing up the mess we inherited here both in terms of issues like onsolds and re-repairs and now there's a potential for a bill here as well. This is a legacy issue that we're having to deal with."

Treasury told Checkpoint in an email: "In June 2019, the treasury prepared an update for Minister Robertson as the incoming minister responsible for the Earthquake Commission.

"The report was on the unquantifiable fiscal risks for the crown and crown owned entities relating to the Canterbury earthquakes. 

"This report did refer to the Dodds case and the possibility of an adverse outcome, however, given that it was prepared in June - it was prepared without knowledge of the actual decision on Friday. 

"Since Friday, the Treasury has not produced any estimate of the possible liability arising from the Dodds case. This is because Southern Response and its advisors are still considering the decision and its implications."